Ramdulal Niwas - Prominent Palaces
27-01-2019    100 times
Ramdulal Niwas

Ramdulal Niwas, the residential building of Ramdulal Deb, was constructed in Victorian architecture at 67E Beadon Street, near the present Beadon Street Post Office.

Ramdulal Deb was born in a very poor family and lost his parents in a very early age. He had to stay with his maternal Grandmother who was a cook in the family of a businessman, Madanmohan Dutta. Madanmohan was kind enough to give shelter to Ramdulal and his younger sister, where Ramdulal was engaged as a servant. While doing petty jobs for the family, Ramdulal also started studying with Madanmohan's kids. As he grew up, Madanmohan employed him in his business as a Sarkar, a mere bill collector and he soon won his master's confidence by his hard work, intelligence and honesty. His fate changed by a lucky incident, when Madanmohan gave him Rs.14000 to take part in the bidding of a ship that was sunk. He bought that ship for Rs.14000, sold it within a few hours to an Englishman for Rs.100000 and gave the whole money to his Master.

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Madanmohan became very happy to know about the details of his story. He took back only Rs. 14000 and returned the rest of the money to Ramdulal to make his future with the money he earned. That was the beginning and subsequently he became one of the first Indians to make his riches under the British rule in the early 18th century. It is said that, he was the first Indian to arrange voyages towards the Western Hemisphere with his own ship. Two of his vessels, Kamala, and Vimala were named after his two daughters and one of his friendly American merchants fondly named one of his vessels ‘Ram Dolloll’. It is also said that the USA opened its consulate in Calcutta at his instance.

Ramdulal Niwas
Ramdulal Deb
Ramdulal Deb

Built in Victorian Architecture during the early years of British RaJ, ‘Ramdulal Niwas’, the huge residential brick-red building of Ramdulal Deb is majestically decorated with gorgeous columns. It includes a huge covered courtyard, called the Naat Mandir, graced with beautiful columns and decorated with pictures of the family members. Once it was used to entertain four hundred guests at a time. Ramdulal Deb started the Durga Puja of the Deb family in 1707, in the Naat Mandir, which has continued till date in the said heritage venue. The traditional idol of Goddess Durga is worshipped here in ‘Ek Chala’, while Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as Jaya-Bijaya.

Ramdulal Niwas - a lone corridor
Ramdulal Niwas - a lone corridor
Ramdulal Niwas
Ramdulal Niwas - thakur dalan
Ramdulal Niwas - thakur dalan

Till recently, the Deb family used to follow religiously the unique ritual of setting free a couple of 'Nilkontho' birds (Indian Rollar Bird), just before the immersion of the idol on the last day of the Puja, the day of Bijoya Dashami. It is believed that the birds act as the messengers of God. One of them would fly to Kailash to inform Lord Shiva about the forthcoming arrival of his wife, Goddess Durga, while the other would come back to confirm the family members about the safe departure of the Goddess. In earlier days, animals were sacrificed to the goddess on the ‘Ashtami’.

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It is said that once on the eve of such a ritual, the goat that was supposed to be sacrificed ran away and took shelter at Ramdulal's feet. The incident shocked Ramdulal and from that day he stopped the ritual of animal sacrifice. After his demise, the Puja came to be famously known as Chhatubabu-Latubabu’s Puja.

Chhatu Babu
Chhatu Babu
Latu Babu
Latu Babu

The two sons of Ramdulal Deb, Ashutosh and Pramatha Nath, were popularly known as Chhatu Babu and Latu Babu, for their lavish lifestyle. It is rumoured that, they used to light cigars with hundred rupee currency notes. It is also said that, once Latu Babu visited the shop of an Englishman, dealing with valuable lights and Chandeliers and when he wanted to know the price of a particular Chandelier, the shop owner casually replied that it was out of the reach of a commoner. In his turn, Latu Babu purchased all the lights and chandeliers from the shop and asked the owner to spread all of those chandeliers on the road, in front of the shop. After that, he crushed all those valuable items with his Horse drawn carriage.

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Asutosh alias Chhatu Babu, himself a musician, was one of the patrons of classical music. From time to time, he arranged musical soirees in his ‘Nach ghar’ (Dance room), participated by many celebrated musicians and dancers of the country, like the legendary Gauhan Jaan.

Pandit Ravi Shankar Performing at the Naat Mandir of Ramdulal Niwas
Pandit Ravi Shankar Performing at the Naat Mandir of Ramdulal Niwas

One of the oldest markets of Calcutta, ‘Chhatu Babu-Latu Babur Bazar’, located just opposite Ramdulal Niwas, was named after the famous Deb brothers

Unlike some other palatial building of old Calcutta, the massive building of Ramdulal Niwas is still in good condition.

Ramdulal Niwas Location
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    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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